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Faith’s Law: Survivor of teacher’s sex abuse speaks on new law to protect students


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    CHICAGO (WBBM) — She was sexually abused by a teacher at her northwest suburban high school, and would learn that adults knew there was an inappropriate relationship, but did nothing about it.

CBS 2 investigator Megan Hickey is digging into a new law aimed at fixing the system; a law that is named after the Schaumburg survivor who fought for change.

Faith’s Law came in two parts, the second part took effect over the weekend. It adds more transparency to the hiring process for teachers, and enforces the requirement for adults to speak up.

Faith Colson said she was a junior at Schaumburg High School in the early 2000s when her physics teacher started taking — what she thought —was an innocent interest in her.

“My teacher asked me if I wanted to stay after school to talk about college and careers,” she said.

But it escalated to sexual assault.

“I remember being alone in the classroom with him, and I think it was after school by this time, but that’s when he kissed me, and so that started the actual sexual contact,” she said.

It would take more than a decade for Colson to process the trauma, and eventually come forward to investigators.

Her teacher was ultimately prosecuted and convicted, but Faith would come to learn that several adults at the high school suspected the abuse, but did nothing.

“Unfortunately, because these warning signs were missed, it took them not doing anything to help this person abuse me, and they didn’t mean for that to happen, but their lack of action still allowed it to happen,” Colson said.

“The adults failed to protect a youth in their care, and that was alarming,” said Illinois State Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg).

Mussman set out to right Colson’s story more than three years ago, working alongside Colson and other stakeholders to pass two parts of the bill. The last part went into effect on July 1.

“Internally, there is bias within school for colleagues that you have friendly relationships with, perhaps,” she said.

Now teachers are mandated to report acts of grooming — and sexual misconduct was formally defined.

“I think it’s easy sometimes to misunderstand the warning signs I think it’s important to look out for your peers and help them when they’re not as objective as they could be,” Mussman said.

Schools can also no longer hide behind non-disclosure agreements when new school districts ask for hiring references for a teacher who might have a history of sexual misconduct.

“It’s too late to prevent it for me, but it’s not too late to prevent it for others, and I’m grateful that people are listening,” Colson said.

The Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, a nonprofit child protection advocacy group, said, “We are pleased that the second part of Faith’s Law will now take effect to better protect the children in schools across Illinois by strengthening school hiring practices, and requiring actions these institutions must take when there is an allegation of sexual misconduct, including giving notice to parents and guardians of the student involved.”

“We believe all adults have a responsibility to protect children. In addition to this law, we want parents and caregivers to know there are concrete ways you can protect your family and reduce risk of sexual abuse,” ChicagoCAC Chief Executive Officer Char Rivette added.

Heading into the new school year in the fall, Faith’s Law also created an Illinois State Board of Education resource guide that needs to be available on a school’s website and at the request of any parent.

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